Underwater Adventure: 7 of Florida's Best Snorkeling Spots
What Marvels Will You Spot Beneath the Waves?
When I reached my early teens, I made a decision: I was going to learn how to scuba dive. It seemed a natural decision for someone living in South Florida, and I’ll admit that sinking 60 feet below the waves is an amazing otherworldly experience. But scuba diving also isn’t for everyone.
Mandatory training. Expensive equipment. Real safety risks. No wonder so many people prefer snorkeling over suiting up with oxygen tanks and respirators. Fortunately, the continental United States offers more than a few excellent snorkeling opportunities, especially in the Sunshine State. Read on to learn more about some of the best snorkeling in Florida.
Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary
Though Big Pine Key lacks much of the good-natured debauchery that defines neighboring islands such as Key West, even the most party-hearty snorkelers should put it on their bucket lists. Why? Because Big Pine Key abuts Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, one of the most gorgeous snorkeling spots in the nation.
Located roughly five nautical miles from Big Pine, the Sanctuary contains a U-shaped reef and (thanks to federal restrictions) amazing sea life. You’ll see 50 types of living coral and over 150 species of fish. Guided snorkeling tours are generally inexpensive, starting at about $30 USD for adults.
Plus, those who also enjoy diving can check out the wreck of the Adolphus Busch, a nearby ship sunk 110 feet deep.
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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Containing an area of 70 square miles, John Pennekamp State Park may not be America’s biggest park, but it’s certainly one of the more unique. See, the vast majority of the park lies underwater. It’s famous across Monroe county for its excellent diving and an 8-and-a-half-foot-tall underwater statue of Jesus called Christ of the Abyss.
Kayaking opportunities and glass-bottomed-boat rides also draw visitors.
So does the park’s snorkeling spots. The more athletic can rent a space on a tour boat to take them three miles out to the closest reef. Realize, though, that you’ll be treading water for a good 90 minutes since you can’t touch the seabed. You can also enjoy a less strenuous outing by paddling off of Cannon Beach, which contains a Spanish shipwreck a mere 100 feet from shore.
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Sea life is also a main attraction at Venice Beach, located in Venice itself, a sleepy Southwest Florida community. Only the marine critters everyone comes here to see aren’t, well, alive. Due to a quirk of geography, the area is positively awash in fossilized shark teeth, and snorkelers who paddle down to the sea floor can dig them up by the handful.
You’ll usually find that the water is cloudy here, restricting visibility to 10 or 20 feet. However, it often clears up if you swim out about 100 feet from shore, and that’s where you’ll probably stand a better chance of seeing snapper, mackerel, dolphins, or (if you’re very fortunate) manatee.